Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has warned against Mr. Duterte’s order to round up minors loitering in the streets as part of his administration’s intensified drive against “tambays” because it places thousands of vulnerable children in harm’s way.
De Lima, a known human rights defender, also condemned how Duterte treats children as criminals while blatantly violating their constitutional rights.
“The freedom from arbitrary arrests is an inalienable human right. It is the inalienable right of our children. No State, other than a fascist one, can casually declare minors illegal for simply going out of their homes and occupying public space,” she said.
“Duterte’s latest attack on minors and other children means that we cannot not only entrust him with their rights and well-being, we also cannot trust him as a leader still capable of rational behavior,” she added in her recent Dispatch from Crame No. 333.
Last June 14, Duterte ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) to go after “tambays” in the streets that led to the arrest of some 5,500 people during their intensified operations against loiterers conducted between June 13 and 18.
Some weeks after, Duterte ordered the police to not spare minors loitering on the streets from being arrested, a directive which further earned nationwide criticisms.
De Lima said she believes that only a madman like Duterte would target one of the most vulnerable members of our society-the children; that is why “we must protect our children” from him.
“He equates their being in public spaces with the intention to commit a crime, which is like saying occupying public office is tantamount to being corrupt,” she said.
Note that Duterte even cited the principle of “parens patriae (parent of the country)” in defending his unlawful directive that targets the minors, saying the government is only fulfilling their duty in protecting the youth.
De Lima said Duterte, a lawyer like her, obviously misunderstands the principle of parens patriae, taking it to mean literally as the President being the father of the nation.
“He uses the principle to violate the inviolable constitutional right against arbitrary arrests which, together with free speech, serves as the pillar of our freedoms,” she said.
The Senator from Bicol lamented that the Philippines is fast becoming a fascist state “under an arrogantly ignorant lawyer who thinks of himself as the brightest simply because he happens to be President.”
In an effort to protect children from violence or abuse, De Lima filed Senate Bill No. 1348, which seeks to prohibit corporal punishment and all other forms of “humiliating and degrading” acts imposed on children and Senate Bill 195, which seeks to impose stiffer penalties on those who involve children in their criminal activities, last year.